A smoker's guide to UA campus life

By Mark Sussman
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Figuring out where the best places to smoke on campus may seem easy enough at first, but there are roadblocks set out before the uninitiated. All of those signs on the sides of buildings that warn that smoke must be kept at least 25 feet away from the fresh air intakes on UA buildings can make smokers feel oppressed and unwanted.

But, you might say, aren't smokers choosing to exclude themselves from the crowd by smoking? Isn't their seclusion just another warning sign that their choice to light up is tantamount to slow suicide?

Maybe. Sure, we all know that smoking can mean a slow, painful death. But compare how we treat smoking to other possibly terminal illnesses. When was the last time you saw a sign warning cancer patients to stay at least 25 feet away from a building? Or a "No AIDS" section?

Smokers need to know the places they're wanted, the places they can feel at home. Here is a little guide to efficient smoking on campus.

The Modern Languages building

The stereotypical image of a creative writing or English student always includes a cigarette and a cup of coffee. In the breezeway of the Modern Languages building you can find both. The Common Grounds coffee stand is ready to hand off a cup of coffee marathon-style as you head into class. When you get out, you will probably be greeted by a mass of smokers happily puffing away.

If you're low on smokes, you can usually bum one, as long as you can endure pretentious conversation on Derrida, David Foster Wallace and Joseph Conrad.

The Main Library

Studying can be a stressful business. Luckily there are usually packs of smokers taking study breaks outside the library. Again, it's near the Book End Café, which can add a jolt of caffeine to your nicotine buzz.

The only problem with bumming cigarettes here is that people who have been studying for hours can get a bit cranky. I've been snapped at and stared down as I humbly asked to bum a cancer stick from a studious smoker. Avoid direct eye contact and do not display your posterior in any prominent way – it could be interpreted as a sign of aggression.

Student union smoking sections

Curiously enough, I hardly ever see anyone smoking in the designated smoking sections in the Student Union Memorial Center. They are located at the far ends of every outdoor mezzanine, which places them far from anywhere you really need to be.

Accordingly, this is not a good place to bum a cigarette. If you happen to be there, by all means, have yourself a sit and light up. Otherwise, don't bother looking for that designated smoking oasis. It is as ephemeral as a mirage in the desert heat.

Of course the thing that makes all of these places desirable if you don't have a cigarette (the high bumability factor) makes them undesirable if you are simply running low on cigarettes.

If you want to conserve smokes, avoid these areas at all costs. There is a fine line between a friendly social smoker and a nicotine vulture ready to descend at the slightest whiff of smoke. Remember, if you've never lived in Tucson before and you a smoker, you will be bombarded with requests for a gratis cigarette.

My favorite method of denial is to keep walking, turn around, shrug, and with a sympathetic look say, "Sorry, this is my last one," while walking backwards away from the vulture. It is incredibly important to look the offender in the eye and lie sincerely and completely. Otherwise you may get that cynical, "Yeah, right," look shot back at you and you'll feel guilty for the rest of the day.

So while smokers may find it necessary to band together in order not to feel like pariahs, smoking alone ain't bad either.